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Default retirement age of 65 is not unlawful, High Court rules

25 September 2009

The UK's default retirement age of 65 is not unlawful, the High Court has ruled.

However, Mr Justice Blake said the case for raising the age, following a review to be held next year, “would seem to be compelling”.

Age Concern brought judicial review proceedings in the High Court in December 2006, arguing that the UK’s age regulations breached the ban on age discrimination in the Equal Treatment Directive. The case was referred to the European Court of Justice in July 2007.

The ECJ ruled in March this year that derogations from the ban on age discrimination could be lawful if they were “justified by legitimate social policy objectives, such as those related to employment policy, the labour market or vocational training”.

Giving judgment in R (on the application of Age UK) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills [2009] EWHC 2336(Admin), Blake J said the position might have been different if a review had not been announced by the government.

He said he could not “presently see” how 65 could remain as the default retirement age (DRA) after the review.

The judge said that had the DRA been adopted for the first time this year, or there had been on indication of an imminent review, “I would have concluded for all the above reasons that the selection of age 65 would not have been proportionate.”

He went on: “It creates greater discriminatory effect that is necessary on a class of people who are both able to and want to continue in their employment.

“A higher age would not have any general detrimental labour market consequences or block access to high level jobs by future generations.

“If the selection of age 65 is not necessary it cannot therefore be justified.”

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